Card Mills, MLM’s and Link Bait

I receive a lot of press releases. Since I do PR for a number of agencies, I like to see what is out there and how things are spun. I like reading them, actually. I can take them “to go” on my Palm and, despite looking like a complete moron when laughing out loud, they can be quite entertaining.

One of the things I look for are headlines that “link bait” – that is, a controversial headline or sound bite that is designed to get people clicking. Most of the time link bait is all hype and no substance, really by design. Sometimes, it is not.

Today came this little jewel:
“Cruise Travelers Are Now Receiving Commission Checks of Up to 15% When Booking Directly With the Cruise Lines”

That one screamed, “click me!” – so I did. I was certain it was another ploy by the suppliers to bypass commissions to our already overworked and underpaid little corner of retail industry commerce.

It ended up being a new spin on an old, tired industry blot. An MLM. A card mill. A promise to pay $20 per month and “go directly to the cruise lines to find the best possible rates, book the cruise, and best of all, earn up to 100% of the commission.”

Since I don’t want to give this outfit anymore web real estate, I won’t publish their web address here. Needless to say, while I applaud their “entrepreneurial spirit” for trying to capitalize on the availability of websites, press releases and a finely tuned, slick press release copy, I am just as tired as every other travel professional that this relegates to the position of “order taker” and “button pusher”.

It takes talent, skill, expertise and training to match the right cruise with the right vacationer. If anyone thinks otherwise, then the next time their vacation goes wrong they should try and call the Internet. Those that work hard for ACC, MCC, ECC and, yes, CTC shouldn’t have to continue to put up with the DIY (do-it-yourself) enablers diluting the respectability of this industry. It is why some very respectable host agencies are labeled unfairly, in my opinion. Its hard enough for the general public to separate the signal from the noise; now we’re starting to see suppliers with a little hearing loss, too.

One small delightful note: Their press release was much better than their website. Mixed in with the “commission calculators”, cheesy open source hacked code and grammatical errors; along with the pirate graphics (apropos, I say), and copy and paste statistics from CLIA, I found the forum. A discussion panel for all those suckers out there ready to plunk down their $20 per month, and take their free cruises. Know what the only topic was?

“Membership Cancellation”

If anyone wants to join their “conversation”, comment on this post and I’ll send you their details via e-mail.

Arrowhead Fires

I’ve been asked a lot if we were affected by the fires in Lake Arrowhead. The answer is yes, but not as much as others.

My Grandma passed away at home in Arrowhead on the 17th. The next few days were a blur, but the fires started on Monday morning.

Our old house on Amador Lane above the golf course was burned to the ground. It was essentially ground zero for one of the fires.

I stayed in Grandma’s house, on the other side of the lake, despite the mandatory evacuation order. I made sure to stay off the roads, deferring to the emergency personnel, I had plenty of supplies and kept the house hosed down. Since we had just worked 7 months to completely reconstruct it after the “Great Christmas Flood of 2006” I wasn’t going to let it go without a fight. It was and is my childhood home, and where all my kids mountain memories are based.

Again, next few days are blurry, but the fires stayed mostly west and north. It was smoky and a little eerie to be alone, and at times I felt unsafe thinking about looters and bad men. I was also really sad to be there in Grandma’s house, without Grandma to even talk to.

I flew home to Padre Island on Saturday the 27th. I’m back in the swing of real life – volleyball, of course, Island Life, the girl’s school, their alma mater charter school, and, business. We thought about Thanksgiving there, but I think I’m just (pardon the pun) cooked. I’ve mandated the Holidaze at home this year.